Before I moved in with the woman who is now my wife, I had no CD player. However, in anticipation, I bought two CDs from the covered market that used to be in Camberwell but sadly is no longer. Actually, I bought one, and my lovely sister bought me the other. They were, respectively, as follows.
Drums of Defiance: Maroon Music from the Earliest Free Black Communities of Jamaica [Smithsonian Folkways Various Artists SFW40412 1992]
Featuring complex, West African influenced drumming and dancing, this little-known rural tradition is at the heart of modern, politically charged reggae music. The conviction heard here reveals a long history of struggle. During the 17th and 18th centuries, some of the Africans brought to Jamaica as slaves escaped to the mountains. There they settled, and over time, they became known as “Maroons.” Today, four major Maroon colonies still exist in Jamaica’s rugged western Cockpit Country and in the eastern Blue Mountains.
You can listen to fragments at the Folkways site. It was recorded by the great ethnomusicologist and anthropologist of the Caribbean Kenneth Bilby. More about him and his amazing collection here, here, here.
Celia Cruz: Ritmo en el Corazon
This is a fourteen-track European release from 1991, that includes the eight tracks from the original Fania album of the mid-1980s, which is co-credited to Cruz and Ray Barretto. Barretto was a Nu Yorican conga player who had been a star in the boogaloo/watusi period of the late 1950s/early 1960s, developing a more experimental hard-edged classic Fania salsa sound in the 1970s. Celia Cruz was the reigning queen of Latin music from Cuba but resident in New Jersey. They clearly had loads of fun recording together, and Barretto got a well-deserved Grammy for it.
The re-release has extra tracks recorded earlier by Cruz with other great stars, principally Willie Colon and Tito Puente but also Ruben Blades. Taken together, these are the giants of that great moment in New York classic salsa, and the album remains awesome.
(You might be able to download rar files here, but possibly illegal, unethical and harmful to your computer so not recommended.)
I’m still buying CDs, but not as often as I used to. The most recent two I bought a geezer in Brighton.
Slim Gaillard and Babs Gonzales Shuckin’ and Jivin’ [Kingston]
This 1999 compilation includes about a dozen tracks by Slim Gaillard, and another half dozen by Babs Gonzales. You almost certainly know the king of the hepcats, Slim Gaillard (I’ve blogged about him before). The Gaillard tracks are all from the 1940s, the peak of his career, with several different line-ups. The pairing with the less-known Gonzales is inspired. Both me could rightly be seen as the grandparents of hip hop, using old African-American vocal traditions as well as innovative forms, and exploiting the poetry of urban hepcat vernacular.
Like Gaillard and their Jewish-born contemporary and confederate Mezz Mezzrow, Gonzales was a master at racial transvestitism, playing with and subverting the rigid boundaries of the Jim Crow era: born Lee Brown in New Jersey (apparently all his brothers were called Babs too), he was turban-wearing Ram Singh for a while, using an assumed exotic Asianness to get a job as Errol Flynn’s chauffeur. Then he became Ricardo Gonzales, because Mexicans were allowed to stay at some upmarket hotels that blacks couldn’t.
Here is his 1956 “House Rent Party”: